— Could each of you tell us about your responsibilities?
Kamata Koji: Well, I do a lot of things. But basically, I’ve been in charge of Morning Musume and S/mileage.
Yamao Masato: I mostly work with Berryz Koubou and °C-ute.
Hashimoto Shin: You’ve been with them since their debut, right?
Yamao: Right. I’ve been there from the beginning with Berikyuu.
Hashimoto: And Taisei has worked with Mano, Melon in their later years, and…
Taisei: Also later Matsuura, SATOUMI, SATOYAMA… Mostly the non-Tsunku♂ songs. Nowadays I work on ANGERME and Juice=Juice.
Hashimoto: I was involved with pretty much everything beginning with the creation of H!P up to around 2002 — up until “AS FOR ONE DAY,” I think. Then there were some personnel changes and I had a long break from that kind of thing as I worked as the chief manager of °C-ute. Recently, I’m back to being the general production manager.
Hirata Shoichiro — in the past ten years, this man has been one of the constant mainstays of Hello! Project music. Morning Musume’s “Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterun da yo!” and “Renai Hunter,” °C-ute’s “Kiss me Aishiteru,” “Crazy Kanzen na Otona” and “Aitai Aitai Aitai na,” Berryz Koubou’s “Asian Celebration,” “Aa, Yo ga Akeru” and “WANT!,” ZYX’s “Shiroi TOKYO,” DEF.DIVA’s “Suki Sugite Baka Mitai“… He has been involved with over 100 Hello! Project works. Considering how much his exquisite arrangements of edgy dance music and kayou-influenced pop seem to be loved by fans, one doesn’t know what to expect him to be like. But in this interview, his words proved him to be nothing if not a man full of humility!
— Jumping right into it: I want to start by asking what you found a difficult song to work on?
Hirata: Most of the time I just get to do what I like with my arrangements, but I’d say “Piriri to Yukou!” (Berryz Koubou) was a tough one just because they specifically wanted the song to feature sanshin. I had to think about the beat I wanted to give it, so I’d listen to lots of ska for inspiration. Well, truth be told, since this was just around the time when I was first starting out, it’d be more accurate to say every song felt difficult to do at the time. I enjoyed doing the remixes though — something like Gomattou’s “SHALL WE LOVE? (Cool groove mix)” was just great fun for me, making that 2-step remix.
— Meanwhile, a song like Morning Musume’s “Pyoko Pyoko Ultra!” was actually quite heavy on the dance music influences.
Hirata: I got word from the office that they would appreciate it if it did, yes. You know how these days people love songs with high BPM’s, right? Songs that it’s easy for fans to shout “oi, oi!” to. And I mean really high BPM’s — up there in the 170’s and 180’s. Even the average Hello! Project song around the time was pushing 150, so this was actually a period of serious struggle for me — I felt like I was starting to run all out of ideas. (laughs)
Yesterday, I asked you guys for your advice: from now on, should Wota in Translation be the place that I post all my Hello! Project translations on (with the exception of radio), or should I do what I have done so far and keep posting all the non-2ch stuff on a separate blog?
Well, the people have spoken.
When it comes to Hello! Project singles, no one has arranged more than Suzuki Daichi Hideyuki. Morning Musume’s “Do it! Now” and “Resonant Blue,” Matsuura Aya’s “The Bigaku” and “Kiseki no Kaoru Dance“… Countless of signature songs have been arranged by him. But what to him constitutes a perfect arrangement?
— What sort of music did you personally like early in your life?
Suzuki: I lived right through that biggest band boom — I loved bands like BOØWY and Blue Hearts and I played in a rock band myself. But I also found myself quite liking idol music along the lines of Tokyo Performance Doll and such. Nakayama Miho, too… I loved all the kayou kyoku type stuff. I played guitar in the band I was in, but I originally started out with programming back in junior high, thanks to the influence of TM NETWORK.
— I can’t imagine there having been too many junior high schoolers playing around with music programming in the late 80’s. (laughs)
Suzuki: Probably not, no. (laughs) I loved computers and I was into computer programming, too, so it was easy to get into music and the hardware side of things through that. So then I went out and bought myself a sequencer. With programming you had to input written music which would then output into actual sound… that’s how I got started. It was only later that I picked up the guitar and started playing in bands.
Beginning with his keyboard contributions on “Ai no Tane,” Kono Shin has since gone on to leave behind a number of notable works, including Morning Musume’s “Manatsu no Kousen” and “I WISH,” Melon Kinenbi’s “Kokuhaku Kinenbi,” and ZYX’s “Iku ZYX! FLY HIGH.” Having worked on a great number of arrangements, he describes his work with Hello! Project in particular as having been “considerably free.” How exactly did these Kono works come to be?
— The first work you did in relation to Hello! Project was playing the keyboards on “Ai no Tane.” How did that happen?
Kono: I was playing in a band called SPANK HAPPY at the time. (Note: the band’s lineup consisted of Hara Midori, Kikuchi Naruyoshi and Kono Shin. They have since disbanded.) Our company at the time was working with this band called COSA NOSTRA (a band led by Sakurai Tetsutarou). Through that connection, I would often play keyboards on Sakurai’s works, so when he was called in to compose and arrange Morning Musume’s “Ai no Tane,” he asked me to play keyboards on it. The musicians who played on “Ai no Tane” were mostly all close acquaintances of his. Another thing is, I had already been a supporting member for Moritaka Chisato so I wasn’t even that far removed from Up-Front. That was a big reason as to why I later became an arranger for Hello! Project.
Immediately after “Ai no Tane” and “Morning Coffee” came the song that really changed Morning Musume’s image: the brilliant “Summer Night Town.” It was followed by a song that earned the group their first Kouhaku appearance, “Daite HOLD ON ME!,” as well as the elegant “Memory Seishun no Hikari.” One man who greatly contributed to the arrangements of this “cool style” of early Morning Musume was Maejima Yasuaki. Having been a member of bands like SPICK & SPAN and Orquesta de la Luz — as well as a long-serving band leader for Moritaka Chisato in the 90’s — what kinds of things surprised this veteran of music in his work with Tsunku♂?
— Could you tell us about how you first came to be involved with Hello! Project?
Maejima: I was very much indebted to Seto Yukio, Moritaka Chisato’s producer. Seto had previously arranged a song or two for Sharan Q, and that’s how he’d gotten acquainted with Tsunku♂ and the rest of the band. Before long, the project for Morning Musume’s debut was underway and Seto called me along.
— I still remember the first time I heard “Summer Night Town” — it was like the perfect night-time kayou kyoku song. Did it already sound that way on Tsunku♂’s original demo?
Maejima: If I remember correctly, I received a very basic, programmed demo of the song. It wasn’t yet quite like how it eventually turned out, but the melody and overall harmonies were already there, meaning I didn’t have to give it a huge makeover or anything. I just stayed faithful to the demo I’d received… I think. I don’t really remember the specifics.
H: These are the highlights (as chosen by me) of Okai’s Q&A event held on October 19th. Please note that her answers were actually, in all likelihood, much more verbose — think of her answers below as just quick, tweet-sized summaries.
— Do you still want to form the unit with Airi that you’ve previously talked about?
It feels like that could lead to fights between the two of us so fast. We’re both kinda stubborn, so it can get a bit heated even just deciding on setlists for our events. But yeah, after °C-ute breaks up, it would be nice to get together to do an event together by the two of us — every now and then.
— Have you been going to karaoke lately?
My doctor has been stopping me from doing so since my throat troubles. Before that, I used to go four times a week. But I like to drink when I go to karaoke, and that apparently makes it even worse for your throat.
— I love you so much, I probably won’t even be able to sleep at night anymore. What should I do?
Yeah, I can see right through people like this. This person is in reality obviously an Airi fan.
It was Pour Lui‘s admiration for Morning Musume and Takahashi Ai that made her decide she wanted to form an idol group of her own, and she then went on to become the leader and “naughty” member of BiS. Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Oomori Seiko has been performing her H!P covers at Hello! Shops, conveying her love of Hello! Project and Michishige Sayumi in particular. Admitting to being greatly influenced by Platinum Era Morning Musume especially, these two talked to us about what in Hello! Project music appeals to them, as well as what makes them so partial to Morning Musume.
— To start off, could you tell us how you first came in contact with Hello! Project?
Pour: I’m 23 years old which means I’m just the age where I was in elementary school when Morning Musume became huge.
Oomori: Same here. I’m the same age as Tsuji and Kago. I remember seeing Morning Musume on TV when I was 13 or 14 years old and being moved upon learning how those two were the same age as me and yet being such hard workers. That’s when I became a fan.
— What about them caught your interest?
Pour: For me, it was purely admiration and love.
Oomori: I’m very interested in girls — I had this “habit” of looking inside bags of girls I liked, trying to find their gym suits and stuff… all kinds of male virgin loser stuff like that. Morning Musume was the perfect target to focus my curiosity on simply because no one would get angry at me. (laughs)